TAHOMA, Washington — In line with Kenya’s Vision 2030, The 2063 African Union Agenda and 2030 SDGs, Kenya’s State Department of Youth Affairs is committed to empowering the youth and removing barriers to their productivity. Youth ages 18-34 make up 25% of the Kenyan population. The organization Kabete CARES is driving youth development in Kenya, helping to empower and remove the barriers that youth face.
In the 2019 Youth Development Policy, the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs recognized that investing in youth development in Kenya would have a positive impact on the nation’s economy. Youth unemployment in 2019 was at 12.1%. To curb this, the Policy emphasizes social, cultural, economic and political support for youth.
George Kinūthia Wachira founded Kabete CARES in 2005. Its mission is to foster talent in young people around his home area to help their socio-economic development. Kabete CARES is currently driving youth development in Kenya. Over the years, Kabete CARES has transformed the lives of children and adolescents in the Kabete sub-county in Kenya’s Kiambu County. Eventually, the organization traversed regional, national and international boundaries.
Kinūthia and his team’s efforts have gained them recognition including accolades from the Governor of Kiambu for service to the community. CARES is an acronym representing the organization’s five main activities: conservation, arts, rehabilitation, education and sports. Here are five ways Kabete CARES is driving youth development in Kenya:
One of the objectives of the Youth Development Policy is to foster a sense of responsibility in sustainable environmental management. In line with this, Kabete CARES is involved in conservation efforts including local community clean-ups and tree planting. Kabete CARES has partnered with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to promote conservation and support school feeding programs. So far, they have donated 4,000 aluminum plates in place of plastic ones.
In an interview with The Borgen Project, Kinūthia reported that these efforts earned the organization a certificate of appreciation in The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign. The UNEP launched the campaign in 2006 in partnership with the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Wangarī Maathai’s Green Belt Movement and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
Kabete CARES promotes talent in music, drama and fine arts. Some of the performing artists have gone on to become professional actors and drama teachers. The organization has also put together short movies that have aired nationally to support artists for youth development in Kenya.
The Policy also focuses on eradicating substance abuse among the youth in Kenya. The 2015-2020 NCD Strategy Kenya documented that 3.2% of the population abuse alcohol and 7% of children 10-14 years are tobacco smokers. Alcohol and drug abuse among Kenyan youth has been associated with irresponsible sexual behavior, crime and mental health issues. Poverty and peer pressure are major contributing factors.
Kabete CARES provides psychosocial support and mentorship to curb the rampant alcohol and drug abuse. The organization has a long-term project to establish crisis centers where the youth can receive help from mental health professionals. Every June, the organization also hosts the “Kabete CARES Say No to Drug Abuse” to mark the U.N. International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The 2018 literacy rate among youth in Kenya aged 18-24 was at 87.83%. Despite this, tertiary enrollment in 2017 was at only 11%. Only about one-third of students enrolled in primary school will receive their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. One way of addressing this is to provide career guidance for youth development in Kenya.
Kabete CARES has invested in education by securing scholarships for talented needy youths, including sports scholarships as well as training coaches and community leaders. In addition, the organization has chess programs. Some of the players have gone on to compete nationally and internationally. Moses Kwereba, a member of Kabete CARES and the National Chess Federation, led the Kenya National Youth Team to the World and the Africa Championships in South Africa and Zambia respectively.
The Youth Policy recognizes the lack of safe spaces for recreation and sport in the country. Such safe spaces would facilitate social and character development as well as productivity. Kabete CARES is driving youth development in Kenya through goals to establish sports academies along with a stadium designed to accommodate differently gifted youth. The organization uses sports to facilitate child and youth development in Kenya, particularly social development.
In 2009, Kabete CARES established a Soccer Academy. To date, it has trained more than 2,000 players. Some played in senior leagues and others received scholarships. John Mbūgua is one such beneficiary who advanced to become a soccer coach. Some of the Soccer Academy wins include the 2010 Girls’ Ndogo East African Tournament and the 2011 Kiambu League. Kinūthia reports that Melksham Football Club (U.K.) has supported the organization with soccer kits.
In athletics, Kabete CARES has participated in numerous marathons including the Kigali International Peace Marathon, Kilimanjaro International Marathon and Kuala Lumpur Marathon. Together with Runners Paradise Expeditions and Safaris, Kabete CARES has distributed more than 1,000 running shoes to athletes in need.
In 2005, the Baseball 4 Africa founder Jim Tamarack introduced baseball to Kabete CARES. Together with the Baseball Federation of Kenya, the partners have equipped players across four counties with gear and training. Kabete CARES is also involved in hosting the annual Baseball 4 Africa National Championship.
The 2019 Kenya Youth Development Policy Framework aims to drive youth development in Kenya by empowering them holistically. Central to this is supporting their socioeconomic and political participation by engaging them at all levels. Kabete CARES continues to do its part in harnessing youth talent through community activities.
The organization has faced numerous challenges along the way, including dwindling funding. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the NGO particularly hard. Kinūthia, who works in the tourism industry to draw income to run the NGO, reported that his employment suffered and the organization along with it. Lockdown restrictions and curfews also led to a downscaling of activities. Kinūthia and some members find ways to soldier on in order to keep the youth engaged in the face of the pandemic. The organization hopes to get more financial support to continue running the programs and drive youth development in Kenya.
– Beth Warūgūrū Hinga